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August 16, 2007

US Israel Policy Harms Both Countries


by Paul Craig Roberts

"No American President can stand up to Israel."

These words came from feisty Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations (1967-1970) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1970-1974). Moorer was, perhaps, the last independent-minded American military leader.

Admiral Moorer knew what he was talking about. On June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the American intelligence ship, USS Liberty, killing 34 American sailors and wounding 173. The Israelis even strafed the life rafts, machine-gunning the American sailors leaving the stricken ship.

Apparently, the USS Liberty had picked up Israeli communications that revealed Israel's responsibility for the Six Day War. Even today, history books and the majority of Americans blame the conflict on the Arabs.

The United States Navy knew the truth, but the President of the United States took Israel's side against the American military and ordered the United States Navy to shut its mouth. President Lyndon Johnson said it was all just a mistake. Later in life, Admiral Moorer formed a commission and presented the unvarnished truth to Americans.

The power of the Israel Lobby over American foreign policy is considerable. In March 2006, two distinguished American scholars, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, expressed concern in the London Review of Books that the power of the Israel Lobby was bending US foreign policy in directions that serve neither US nor Israeli interests. The two experts were hoping to start a debate that might rescue the US and Israel from unsuccessful policies of coercion that are intensifying Muslim hatred of Israel and America. The Israel lobby was opposed to any such reassessment, and attempted to close it off with epithets: "Jew-baiter," "anti-semitic," and even "anti-American." Today Israeli citizens who oppose Zionist plans for greater Israel are denounced as "anti-Semites."

Many Americans are unaware of the influence of the Israel lobby. Instead they think of the US as "the world's sole superpower," a macho new Roman Empire whose orders are obeyed without question or the insolent nonentity is "bombed back to the stone age." Many Americans are convinced that military coercion serves our interest. They cite Libya, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now they are ready to bring Iran and Pakistan to heel with bombs.

This arrogance results in the murder of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of men, women and children, a fate that many Americans seem to believe is appropriate for countries that do not accept US hegemony.

Coercion is what American foreign policy has become. Macho superpatriots love it. Many of these superpatriots derive vicarious pleasure from their delusions that America is "kicking those sand niggers' asses."

This is the America of the Bush Regime. If some of these superpatriots had their way every "unpatriotic, terrorist supporter" who dares to criticize the war against "the Islamofacists" would be sent to Gitmo, if not shot on the spot.

These Bush supporters have morphed the Republican Party into the Brownshirt Party. They cannot wait to attack Iran, preferably with nuclear weapons. Impatient for Armageddon, some are so full of hubris and self-righteousness that they actually believe that their support for evil means they will be "wafted up to heaven."

It has come as a crippling blow to Democrats that "their" political party is comfortable with Bush's America, and will do nothing to stop the Bush regime's aggression against the Iraqi people or to prevent the Bush regime's attack on Iran.

The Democrats could easily impeach both Bush and Cheney in the House, as impeachment only requires a majority vote. They could not convict in the Senate without Republican support, as conviction requires ratification by two-thirds of Senators present. Nevertheless, a House vote for impeachment would take the wind out of the sails of war, save countless lives and perhaps even save humanity from nuclear holocaust.

Various rationales or excuses have been constructed for the Democrats' complicity in aggression that does not serve America. Perhaps the most popular rationale is that the Democrats are letting the Republicans have all the rope they want with which to produce such a high disapproval rating that the Democrats will sweep the 2008 election.

It is doubtful that the Democrats would assume that men as cunning as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney do not understand the electoral consequences of a low public approval rating and are walking blindly into an electoral wipeout. Rove's departure does not mean that no strategy is in place.

So what does explain the complicity of the Democratic Party in a policy that the American public, and especially Democratic constituencies, reject? Perhaps a clue is offered from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune news report (August 1, 2007) that Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison will spend a week in Israel on "a privately funded trip sponsored by the American Israel Education Federation. The AIEF the charitable arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is sending 19 members of Congress to meet with Israeli leaders. The group, made up mostly of freshman Democrats, has plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and [puppet] Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The senior Democratic member on the trip is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who has gone three times.... The trip to Israel is Ellison's second as a congressman."

According to the Star-Tribune, a Republican group, which includes Rep. Michele Bachmann (R, Minn), led by Rep. Eric Cantor (R, Va) is already in Israel. According to news reports, another 40 are following these two groups during the August recess, and "by the time the year is out every single member of Congress will have made their rounds in Israel." This claim is probably overstated, but it does show careful Israeli management of US policy in the Middle East.

Elsewhere on earth and especially among Muslims, the suspicion is rife that the reason the war against Iraq cannot end, and the reason Iran and Syria must be attacked, is that the US must destroy all Muslim opposition to Israel's theft of Palestine, turning an entire people into refugees driven from their homes and from the lands on which they have lived for many centuries. Americans might think that they are merely grabbing control over oil, keeping it out of the hands of terrorists, but that is not the way the rest of the world views the conflict.

Jimmy Carter was the last American president who stood up to Israel and demanded that US diplomacy be, at least officially if not in practice, even-handed in its approach to Israel and Palestine. Since Carter's presidency, even-handedness has slowly drained from US policy in the Middle East. The neoconservative Bush/Cheney regime has abandoned even the pretense of even-handedness.

This is unfortunate, because military coercion has proven to be unsuccessful. Exhausted from the conflict, the US military, according to former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, is "nearly broken." Demoralized elite West Point graduates are leaving the army at the fastest clip in 30 years. Desertions are rapidly rising. A friend, a US Marine officer who served in combat in Vietnam, recently wrote to me that his son's Marine unit, currently training for its third deployment to Iraq in September, is short 12-16 men in every platoon and expects to be hit with more AWOLs prior to deployment.

Instead of reevaluating a failed policy, Bush's "War Czar," General Douglas Lute, has called for the reinstitution of the draft. Gen. Lute doesn't see why Americans should not be returned to military servitude in order to save the Bush administration the embarrassment of having to correct a mistaken Middle East policy that commits the US to more aggression and to debilitating long-term military conflict in the Middle East.

It is difficult to see how this policy serves any interest other than the very narrow one of the armaments industry. Apparently, nothing can be done to change this disastrous policy until the Israel Lobby comes to the realization that Israel's interest is not being served by the current policy of military coercion.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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